Copeland Creek Water Quality Project

bridge over Copeland CreekCopeland Creek falls

Project Description: Our waterways capture overland flow during storms and water from our gutters and fields. Are there pollutants in Copeland Creek? Where do they come from? What parts of the creek are most compromised and when?

Our interdisciplinary team identified the following topics that the water quality project can address:

  • Watershed-wide Monitoring - to identify impairments as they arise.
  • Copeland Creek Enhancement Project Monitoring - to identify provide pre-construction data for a proposed project immediately upstream of SSU campus
  • Summer Runoff Monitoring - to identify water sources and quality of creek water
  • Native Fish Habitat Monitoring - to better understand habitat quality for threatened steelhead and native warm water fish

Duration: Spring 2012 - ongoing

Type of Educational Activities: Service-learning, independent research

Project Faculty: Mark Perri (Chemistry), Debora Hammond (Arts & Humanities), Nathan Rank (Biology)

Partners/Funding: Sonoma County Water Agency; NSF Grant "Stepping Up Stem" to SSU School of Science & Technology; SSU Arts & Humanities, Sonoma County Youth Ecology Corps

Participating Courses:

  • CHEM 125B Honors Chemistry (Mark Perri) - Spring 2013 - 20 students
  • LIBS 320B Water Seminar (Deborah Hammond) - Spring 2013, 2014 - 15 students/yr
  • LIBS 202 Challenge and Response in the Modern World (Debora Hammond) - Spring 2013, 2014, 2015 - 70 students/yr
  • SCI 120 A Watershed Year (Jeremy Qualls) - 45 students (3 sections)
  • Sonoma County Youth Ecology Corps (Suzanne DeCoursey) - 5 field crew members
  • Chemistry Summer Internships (Mark Perri) - 1-2 students/yr

Sampling Locations - Detailed directions to sampling locations

  • Headwaters - Osborn Preserve, Lichau Road
  • Alluvial Fan - Pressley Road, SSU Bridge
  • Valley Reach - SSU Outfall, Santa Alician Gauge, Commerce Blvd

water quality sampling locations on Copeland Creek

Sampling Schedule - Water samples are taken at sampling locations at times supportive of course schedules. Most of the participating courses are taught during the Spring Semester (January to May). Summer sampling is undertaken by restoration crews and chemistry interns. (Ideally sampling for this project would follow Rohnert Park (2009) in including: (a) 1st sample during early wet-weather season following first flush runoff; (b) 2nd sample during a major storm occurring later in the wet season; 3rd sample during dry weather, ideally following a period of 21 days without precipitation).

Target Variables and Protocols

  • Ions (nitrate, chloride, nitrite, sulfate, fluoride)(Mark Perri) - All samples are analyzed using Dionex Ion Chromatography (IC). A Seven Anion Standard is used to create calibration curves to qualitatively and quantitatively identify species present.
  • Hand-Held Sensor Measurements (conductivity, dissolved oxygen, pH, temp, turbidity) (Debora Hammond, Nathan Rank) - All field measements are made using pre-calibrated Vernier Probes and interfaces. Vernier probes withe chosen due to relatively low cost and high accuracy ratings. Classes conducting water quality measurements are provided with a Vernier sensor kit, sampling pole and bags, and laminated cards with details of how to use the sensors.
  • Benthic Macroinvertebrates (Nathan Rank) - Courses undertaking biological sampling use a simplified version of the SWAMP: Surface Water Ambient Monitoring Program (California Water Boards) protocols. Four students spent 10 minutes undertaking the following sampling effort. A fine mesh D-net was placed on the bottom of the creek. Rocks within 1-2 feet upstream of the dipnet were picked up and any organisms attached to the rocks were gently brushed off into the net. Organisms captured in the net were transferred to a white holding tray for identification. After collection, invertebrates were sorted by morphospecies and placed into new alcohol vials.  They were then identified to family using a handbook of stream insects. Students additionally used SWAMP protocols for substrate and land use characterization.

Quality Assurrance and Control (also see data disclaimer)

For Hand-Held Sensors:

  • Water Quality Data Sheet - Field classes use the same data sheet for collecting field data. Students are prompted to report any difficulties that they had making the measurement.
  • Field Methods for Use of Vernier Probes - A set of laminated methods cards are provided for students using the Vernier sensors in the field. Since calibration of the oxygen sensor must be done each time it is used in the field, calibration directions are included in the field instructions. Directions are also included for collecting water samles to be transported to classes conducting laboratory (bacteria and ion) tests.
  • Sensor Accuracy - Vernier sensors and interfaces are used for the collection of field data (conductivity, dissolved oxygen, pH, temperature, turbidity, and flow). These sensors are made for high-school and university course work and are not guaranteed for professional measurements. Each probe comes with specifications on sensor accuracy. Link to Vernier sensor specifications.
  • Sensor Calibration Instructions - Calibration, standard reagents needed, calibration frequency, and sensor maintenance (from the manufacturer) for each probe are made available to instructors in a calibration manual.
  • Training - For Vernier sensors, the WATERS Coordinator works with faculty or graduate students to share sensor use and calibration protocols. Faculty and graduate students provide oversight for student measurements in the field. For benthic sampling, faculty with expertise is macro-invertebrate identification work with students to collect and identify organisms. For bacteria and ions protocols, faculty familiar with these protocols directly work with students in their classes.

Data: (see data disclaimer)

Poster Presentations:

Oral Presentations

Drainage Maps of Copeland Creek Watershed:

Previous Water Quality Data from Copeland Creek Watershed

Copeland Creek Watershed Assessment (2004)

  • Sampling Locations: two areas of creek: 3 sites at a headwaters area, and two sites at an alluvial fan area.
  • Sampling Dates: monthly from June-September 2005.
  • Variables Measured: DO, temperature, ammonia, nitrate, phosphate and pH (using Chemettes kits and Winkler kits: Tables 14 and 15 (p 90); Table 16 (p 94)

City of Rohnert Park - Human Marker/Water Quality Study (2009) - (hardcopy only; see WATERS Coordinator)

  • Sampling Locations: 3 sites: intersection with Laguna de Santa Rosa, Santa Alicia Drive, Snyder Lane
  • Sampling Dates: Feb 18, Mar 4, and Mar 31, 2009
  • Variables Measured: specific conductance, dissolved oxygen, temperature, pH, total coliform, fecal coliform, E. coli, total enterococcus, biological oxygen demand, total phosphorus, dissolved phosphorus, orthophosphate, nitrite as N, nitrate as N, ammonia as NH3, total Kjeldahl nitrogen, total nitrogen as N, total dissolved solids, total suspended solids

First Flush Water Quality Monitoring Program (cited in Copeland Creek Watershed Assessment 2004) -

  • Sampling Locations: creek crossing at Country Club and Commerce.
  • Sampling Dates: Nov 7, 2002 and Nov 7, 2003: (data in CC Watershed Assessment p. 95).
  • Variables Measured: steam flow stage, specific conductivity, pH, temperature, total amonia nitrogen, orthphosphate, ntirate, turbidity, TSS, E. coli, total coliform, daizinon.

North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board

  • With North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board, SSU sampled outfall behind the main outfall behind the art building in the Spring of 1997 (no impact to water quality found)